Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say. Ecclesiastes 10, verse 20.
Lots of folks in the world today think things are getting bad. If you’re reading this blog today, or if you’re reading it via email, this message came to you electronically. I’m no conspiracy theorist, yet even I am cognizant of the fact that all electronic communications are routed through servers that can be monitored. Data mining has been going on for decades now, and if someone – government, private, criminal, whoever – takes an interest in you, anything you do online is available for them to see. Face it: you’re being monitored, you can be tracked, and ‘they’ can see what you say, transact, and do. Some of ‘them’ aren’t your friends, too. Some of ‘them’ don’t have your good welfare in mind. That too is simply a fact of life in the internet age.
Trouble can swoop down on you in a heartbeat. If you say things that are unpopular, does that mean we should ratchet them back? Maybe or maybe not.
Did you know that only one of Jesus’ apostles died of old age? The Apostle John, he of the Book of John, 1-3 John and Revelation, died an old man, and he was the only one of the Twelve to be blessed to do so. The rest of his friends and peers all died martyrs, murdered for what they believed and said. They were murdered by the authorities of the day in Judea, in Rome, and in Africa and Asia. You and I know there are many lessons to be drawn from this, but the one in context of today is especially important: watch your words.
It’s a terrible thing to fear authority, but in a sinful and fallen world, we need to. In this case, it’s not talking just about that respect flavor of fear: this verse is talking about genuine trepidation. Later in history, the Apostle Paul said “Government does not bear the sword for nothing; it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” God uses government for His purposes, and the government we have – even an overbearing, over-intrusive and sometimes tyrannical one – is in power for more than just an electoral majority. Government is the agent of God. In an age when the government can see, read, and listen to almost anything you say, it’s wise to remember this.
It’s not that we should never speak out against government, or stand idly by while the government does evil things. I just reading finished a book about Christians in Nazi Germany, which made the valid point that the Lutherans, Catholics, and other believers in the 1930s understood exactly what Hitler was planning and doing. They were silently complicit in the evil that resulted. Had enough people spoken against it, perhaps the Holocaust might not have happened, or at least more might have been saved; we will never know. Things were as bad as they could get just 80 years ago, and according to Scripture, they will get bad again. Before history comes to a close, things will become worse than they have ever been.
We get to look forward to that.
Until that time, we also get to cling to belief and live our lives accordingly. These days, when I rail against politicians, or speak out about issues, or opine about Scriptures, I am cognizant of this fact. I’m also cognizant of knowing that someone, somewhere can read these words whenever they like, plucking them out of the electronic atmosphere and doing with them what they will. It’s my prayer that they’ll act as God would have them do, not as the government might dictate. No matter what happens, may a higher will than mine, may God’s will, be done.